By SHANNON HEATON
Northeast Florida Matmen
GREEN COVE SPRINGS — The rules were the same for everyone: Each team had 16 slots within which they score points.
But with only 11 wrestlers available for the weekend’s Clay Rotary, #1 Fleming Island knew that every point, every victory, every medal was going to have extra value. As it worked out, the Golden Eagles’ 11 couldn’t pull off the feat of overcoming Clay’s 16, but each Fleming wrestler had at least four matches, nine of them placed and a 10th was right on the doorstep of placing.
Leading the charge were three weight-class champions — the entire rest of the Northeast coverage area, Clay included, had four — as the Killer Ds trio of Tracy Davis (126), Paul Detwiler (138) and Jason Davis (195) all won Saturday afternoon, all against Clay wrestlers.
Fleming had an additional finalist in Jose Concepcion at 220, with Albie Snedaker (106), Deandre Demus (113), Xaiver Sampsel (132) and Ryan Smenda all taking thirds and Jacob Sandoval (120) finishing fourth.
Tracy Davis got some continuing vindication in his two-year battle with Clay’s Dale Browning for county dominance, if not area dominance, of the 126-pound weight class. After Browning got the first wins in 2014-15, Davis broke through at Uncivil War 2016 nine days earlier. This past weekend, Davis got to the semis with two falls and a major, then decisioned Buchholz’s Gant Moore 6-1 to earn a rematch with Browning. Instead of getting one quick turn as he had at Uncivil, Davis earned two, for five near-fall points, holding off a late charge for a 5-3 victory.
“I got better from last year, and I did want to get some revenge after he beat me twice last year,” Davis said. “I knew that I just had to get one or two points and then I could win. I know I’m going to get tough matches down the road, but I haven’t lost in a long time, haven’t gotten taken down in a long time.”
Detwiler, too, was feeling some need for vindication in the 138 final against Clay’s Julian Summa, particularly after the Blue Devil senior and top-ranked 138 in 1A dictated terms — and won the match as a result — at Uncivil, Detwiler wanted to go back what had worked for him in the first time the pair had met, at Kiwanis in December. This time as then, Detwiler pushed the pace, and this time as he did then, Detwiler won, 9-3. That title followed a pin and two techs on Friday, and then a dominant 14-2 major decision in the semis over Bishop Moore’s Aaron Mason.
“The major focus of this entire week was that match (at Uncivil),” Detwiler said. “I had to look back to see what I did at Kiwanis against him. I was much more assertive against him than in the dual meet. I just had to not stress as much and loosen up. (Winning Rotary) means a lot, since he did beat me in the dual.”
Jason Davis wasn’t happy after winning for the third time over Kaleb Collins to take the 195 title, after winning twice by fall in the first period on Friday and then taking an 11-2 major over Creekside’s Gus Fischer in the semis. Davis did get a solid takedown in the second period, and that was the difference in a 5-3 decision.
“Worst match of the tournament. I didn’t open up, I should have opened up and taken more shots, I did get a couple snapdowns, but overall I should have wrestled better. Not happy with it,” Davis said.
At 220, Concepcion showed the progress made from a freshman year when he lost by fall to then-junior Scott Dollison of First Coast. He had two falls to get to Saturday, picked up a takedown when needed in the semis to turn back Clay’s Jeremy Beaulieu, 3-1, and reach Dollison, now at Episcopal in the final, where he hung in — but couldn’t assert control — in a 6-5 loss.
The quartet of thirds for the Golden Eagles came about under very different circumstances.
At 106, Snedaker had two falls and a major to get to the semis, but couldn’t find a way in his third match in a week with eventual champ Ethan Pickren of Arnold, falling 6-0. From there, Snedaker was in control, shutting out Ben Buhler of Tampa Prep, 4-0, in the consi semis and then decisioning Suwannee’s Brandon Trask, 4-2, for third.
Demus had three falls to get to the semis at 113, but couldn’t stave off the late charge from Clay’s Peyton Hughes, who forced overtime and then rode out Demus for a 10-9 semifinal victory. Demus then took care of business twice more, handling Middleburg’s Briar Jackson 12-6 in the consi semis and Clay’s Chris Merring, 5-1, for third.
Xaiver Sampsel also had three falls to get to the semis, getting a rematch with 1A defending state champ Richie McClanahan of Arnold there. A late score couldn’t get Sampsel over the top, as he fell, 3-2, but then was dominant in the consi rounds, with a 75-second fall of Tampa Jesuit’s Grayson Fisher in the consi semis and then controlled the third-place match against Tampa Prep’s Ashton Habeil, winning with an 11-3 major.
Smenda, too, had three falls on Friday, and was even with Arnold’s Brian Girard through six minutes, but Girard found a way in overtime to get a takedown, taking a 4-2 victory. Smenda had a medical-forfeit victory in the consi semis and pinned Matanzas’ Maverick Dennis in 4:07 for third.
Sandoval, at 120, had a fall and decision to get to the semis, where Orange Park’s Marcus Reid proved to be too much, pinning Sandoval in 2:35. Sandoval rallied immediately with a 14-2 major over Ridgeview’s Justin Trinh in the consi semis, but Columbia’s Chace Curtis proved more than equal to the task in the third-place match, pinning Sandoval in 4 minutes even.
Fleming heavy Brandyne Mackey was one match short of placing; after two falls, Mackey took a 5-3 quaterfinal loss against Lincoln’s Thomas Moss. Mackey won his first consi match, but then dropped an overtime loss to Bishop Kenny’s Josiah McCallum, 3-1, an opponent that he’d pinned in round 2.
Shoen leads Broncos to 10th: Jonathan Shoen’s dominant performance in the 170 bracket propelled Middleburg to a 10th-place overall finish in the tournament, as the Broncos scored 94.5 points, with four placers.
The dominant story was Shoen, though, who didn’t have a single match go six minutes in the entire tournament. That included two falls and a tech fall on Friday, a 46-second semifinal pin over Ridgeview’s Daryn Tucker Brown, and a fall over Will Haigler of Florida High in 1:47. When the placers were finalized, Shoen had beaten four of the other six.
“It’s a really big deal, particularly coming off the win at Flagler (Rotary the previous weekend),” Shoen said. “Anything less than first would have been disappointing for me.”
Shoen’s loss by major decision to Fleming’s John Martorano — who wasn’t at Clay Rotary due to injuries that had him in a walking boot all weekend — was an eye-opener. “I had to get more aggressive in neutral and get better at protecting my legs,” he said of the lessons learned from that loss.
Middleburg also got a fifth from Kurt Jackson at 195 and sixths from Briar Jackson at 113 and Dylan Rossetti at 126.
Kurt Jackson lost by just one point in the Friday-night quarterfinals to Florida High’s Cam Brown, but other than 30 bad seconds on Saturday, the rest of his tournament was solid. Jackson won twice in the consis to secure his podium spot, then took a 30-second loss by fall in the consi semis, but rallied with a second-period fall over Palatka’s Bryan Smith for fifth.
Briar Jackson also had a tough quarterfinal loss Friday night, falling 11-8 to eventual champion Jacques Hale of Sandalwood (more later on him), but Jackson was solid in two easy consi-round wins. He lost to Demus in the consi semis, and then took a loss by fall in the fifth place match, falling in 1:44 against Bishop Moore’s Emauni Smithson.
Rossetti also lost in the quarters, to eventual 126 champ Tracy Davis, but had two solid wins in the consis to earn a podium spot. From there, though, things went south, as he fell, 16-6, in the consi semis to Raines’ Jaquan English and then landed awkwardly in his fifth-place match with Nease’s Tristen Lucessi, forcing him to concede by injury default.
Bigs lift Eagles to 12th: No team did more with less than Episcopal this weekend.
With just four wrestlers suited up at Clay, the Eagles saw two of them take home brackets and a third one place, as Episcopal finished 12th in the tournament with 80 points.
As touched on earlier in the article, Dollison brought home the title at 220. After three first-period falls on Friday to get to the semis, Dollison got some revenge for his first loss of the season to Lincoln’s Josh Martin at Capital City, majoring Martin 11-3. Then, in the finals, Dollison did enough early and late to hold off Fleming’s Concepcion, 6-5, in the championship match.
“I had a few messups, I realized, earlier in the season, and I knew there would be at least two guys here that I wanted to wrestle,” Dollison said. “People have been hard on me after those losses, but they woke me up. I tried harder in practice because I wanted to show people I’m still who I was. If I hadn’t had that losses, I wouldn’t have known what they felt like going into state.”
It’s been a banner week for Conor Chepenik, after winning the Raines 5 Star event a week ago and then making his college decision midweek, to go to Tufts University and play football. That weekend capped off with the 285 title, which followed two falls on Friday, a 3-1 semifinal win over Suwannee’s Rossie Williams. Chepenik got a late takedown against Columbia’s Marcus Zeighler, good for a 5-3 win.
“I’ve gotten hot at the right time,” Chepenik said. “Last time I lost to him (Zeighler), I got down early and took some stupid shots against him. Something just snapped in me and I was able to get him for that final takedown. It was exactly how I wanted it to end. Knowing where I’m going (for college), it’s a huge stress relief off my shoulders. I can just focus on wrestling.”
Christian Rickey added a sixth at 170 after losing by fall to Middleburg’s Shoen in the first round. Rickey had to win four matches to earn that place finish, and he did just that, with two falls, a forfeit and decision. From there though, he lost by major in the consi semis and took a 7-0 loss to Clay’s Caleb Steinmetz in the fifth-place match.
Hale adds Clay title to resume: For Sandalwood, 15th wasn’t where the Saints want to finish, but that’s where they ended up, scoring 70 points with two placers.
After finishing second a year ago, winning the 113-pound title was exactly where Jacques Hale wanted to finish this weekend. There were anxious moments, particularly on Saturday, but he got it done. Hale had a fall, major and decision on Friday and then turned back Clay wrestlers in successive matches for both the semis and final, first 6-4 in the semi over Chris Merring and then 4-2 in extra time over Peyton Hughes.
“There were a lot of tough kids, but a lot of good things happened. I wanted to finish the (regular) season all right, make my teammates and coaches happy,” Hale said. “The goal was to prepare for regionals and state. I feel like right now I have a good chance to go somewhere, but you shouldn’t really feel comfortable about anything ever. I want to improve, and I don’t want to feel satisfied.”
Cameron Bell added a fourth-place finish for the Saints at 138. Bell had a fall, a major and decision to get to the semis, and pushed Clay’s Summa to the limit before falling, 3-2, in that round. Bell had no problem in the consi semis, winning that match by fall, but then lost by fall in the third period against Bishop Moore’s Aaron Mason in the third-place match.
Alex Barie (106) was one match short of placing for Sandalwood, reaching the quarterfinals, losing by disqualification there against Oakleaf’s Ryan Rosano after building an early lead according to his coaches, but was DQ’d for stall warnings. Barie rallied with a 60-second fall in his first consi match, but in the “blood round” couldn’t get past Tampa Prep’s Ben Buhler, falling 5-0.
Complete brackets and results for all 34 teams in the tournament are posted on the website’s 15-16 IBTs page.